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Rugby World Cup: Italy team profile

After stumbling around in rugby's wilderness, Italy are slowly rebuilding and their young, vibrant squad will hope it can cause a big surprise at the 2023 Rugby World Cup. 

Buoyed by recent success at youth level, the Azzurri, World Cup ever-presents, are hopeful of a strong showing in France, despite a tough draw.

Confirmed squad


Pietro Ceccarelli (Brive), Simone Ferrari (Benetton), Danilo Fischetti (Zebre), Ivan Nemer (Benetton), Marco Riccioni (Saracens), Federico Zani (Benetton), Luca Bigi (Zebre Parma), Epalahame Faiva (Hurricanes), Giacomo Nicotera (Benetton), Niccolo Cannone (Benetton), Dino Lamb (Harlequins), Federico Ruzza (Benetton), David Sisi (Zebre), Lorenzo Cannone (Benetton), Toa Halafihi (Benetton), Michele Lamaro (Benetton), Sebastian Negri (Benetton), Giovanni Pettinelli (Benetton), Manuel Zuliani (Benetton).


Alessandro Fusco (Zebre), Alessandro Garbisi (Benetton), Martin Page-Relo (Toulouse), Stephen Varney (Gloucester), Tommaso Allan (Harlequins), Giacomo Da Re (Benetton), Paolo Garbisi (Montpellier), Juan Ignacio Brex (Benetton), Luca Morisi (London Irish), Pierre Bruno (Zebre), Ange Capuozzo (Toulouse), Monty Ioane (Melbourne Rebels), Paolo Odogwu (Stade Francais), Lorenzo Panu (Zebre Parma).


The Italian Rugby Federation have confirmed they'll part ways with head coach Kieran Crowley after the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which came as a surprise to many given all the good work the New Zealander has done.

Having been coach of Canada from 2008 to 2016, Crowley's next job was with Bennetton, guiding them to a first-ever play-off appearance in the URC before taking the Italy job in 2021.

With Crowley in charge, the Azzurri enjoyed an excellent 2022, ending their 36-match losing run in the Six Nations when beating Wales in Cardiff last year before a first-ever win over Australia that autumn. 

Italy have been much-improved under Crowley and although they failed to win a game during the 2023 Six Nations, they managed to avoid the kind of defeats that had led to questions about their status in the competition.

Possible first XV

15. Ange Capuozzo 
14. Federico Mori 
13. Juan Ignacio Brex 
12. Luca Morisi 
11. Monty Ioane 
10. Paolo Garbisi 
9. Alessandro Fusco 
8. Toa Halafihi 
7. Michele Lamaro 
6. Lorenzo Cannone 
5. Federico Ruzza 
4. David Sisi 
3. Marco Riccioni 
2. Giacomo Nicotera 
1. Danilo Fischetti


Italy have steadily moved away from being reliant on their pack wearing down the opposition to a team happy to chuck the ball around and take on defenders, and it's easy to see why when examining their backline. 

Monty Ioane, Ange Capuozzo, Federico Mori, Simone Gesi and Paolo Odogwu are all exciting ball carriers happy to go from deep and when given the opportunity, the Azzurri have shown themselves to be effective, averaging nearly 20 defenders beaten per match in 2022.

Discipline has improved too under Crowley with Italy the only international team in single figures when it came to penalties conceded per game (9.1) last year.


Italy's inability to keep possession means their talented backs don't always see a great deal of the ball. 

The Azzurri averaged a lowly 89 carries per game last year and while that number has improved this year, they continue to turn the ball over at a high rate. 

Only England conceded more turnovers than Italy in the Six Nations, with their commitment to a running game perhaps working against Crowley's side on occasions. 

Key players

Ange Capuozzo

The diminutive Toulouse full-back came to prominence in the 2022 Six Nations when turning the Wales defence inside out and no one ranks higher than Capuozzo for average number of defenders beaten per match (6.3) since the start of last year's Six Nations.

The 2022 Breakthrough Player of the Year has struggled with injuries for much of 2023 but has recently made a welcome return to action and looks primed to build on his impressive record of six tries in nine starts.

Paolo Garbisi

Garbisi has proven to have an old head on young shoulders in his international career to date, showing game management skills and nerve beyond his 23 years of age.

The Montpellier star's emergence has filled a problem position for Italy with Garbisi making the number 10 shirt his own, with his ability to open up defences and get his team moving forward putting him on the fringes of elite fly-half status.

Michele Lamaro

Italy's captain Lamaro likes to lead by example with his work ethic and all-action style setting the tone for the rest of the team. 

He was the leading tackler in the 2022 Six Nations but saw his numbers drop this year. Still, Lamaro remains the leading contender to be first to the breakdown, helping Italy maintain the high tempo they like to play at with his clearing out.

Ones to watch

Simone Gesi

Gesi is amongst a crop of Italian players to have made their name with the under-20s and are now trying to establish themselves in the senior set-up. 

Wing Gesi faces a harder road than most given the competition for places in the Azzurri's backline, but if given an opportunity, watch out for the flash and pacey Zebre starlet who scored five tries in five games in the 2021 Under-20 Six Nations.

Lorenzo Cannone

Flanker Lorenzo Cannone is another recent graduate that's shown flashes of brilliance since his debut against Samoa in the 2022 autumn internationals. 

The Benetton man has excellent hands for a forward and is an assured tackler that will make his presence felt in France.


All odds correct at time of publishing and subject to change.

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